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This feature contains spoilers for Kirby and the Forgotten Land.
There have been many great games released this year – a quick squint at Eurogamer’s Essential reviews from the last 12 months is a testament to this. We had the monumental Elden Ring, the charm-infused Tunic (complete with its nostalgic instruction manual) and the oh-so-stylish it hurts Rollerdrome. Yes, 2022 has delivered us some truly brilliant games.
But for me, the one that really stands above the rest is Kirby and the Forgotten Land. There’s a specific reason for this. The Forgotten Land was the first game that I played together with my kids from the very start, and right through to the end credits.
I will never forget the sheer emotion felt by my two children as we delivered our squashy, perfectly pink (and actually, really quite epic) last blow during the game’s final confrontation. We were all on the edge of our seats when the final showdown with Fecto Elfilis began, but soon we were dancing around the sun room in a slightly maniacal fashion – hopping from one foot to the other, Joy-Cons in hand, voices elevated in anticipation and encouragement. Even The Captain (our dog) picked up on our energy and was leaping on and off the sofa, adding in an appreciative howl here and there. If I am honest, we must have looked like a rather odd bunch to anyone peering through the windows. It was a great fight.
But then, after we had used Kirby’s impressive mouthful mode skill to inhale a Big Rig and charge our opponent down, we stopped these exuberant shenanigans and fell quiet. Quiet because, despite the joyful and colourful worlds that we had immersed ourselves in from the start of our Forgotten Land playthrough, the ending was a surprisingly heartfelt and touching roundoff for the adventure.
My two children, who had followed Kirby and Elfilin (a chinchilla-like creature Kirby meets at the start of the game) on their journey, were suddenly faced with the prospect that these two friends may be separated for good – In the ultimate show of love, Elfilin uses their powers to save Kirby’s world from being destroyed, seemingly sacrificing themselves in the process.
A tear rolled down my daughter’s cheek. My son held his hands over his mouth. My heart felt their emotions and I scooped them up into a reassuring hug. This was a beautiful and poignant moment we were sharing not just with Kirby and the Waddle Dees, but also with each other.
(Before I make this sound too heavy, I should say that it is soon revealed that Kirby and Elfilin are reunited. A rift is made between Kirby’s world and the New World where Elfilin lives, meaning the inhabitants can come and go as they please.)
I now hold this memory in a very dear part of my being. We have since gone on to play through Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, Return to Monkey Island and Super Mario Odyssey together. Completing each of these games with my children has certainly been a delight, but Kirby will always be special for being the game that started it all for us.
I know my children will get older, and curling up on the sofa after school with their mother to play video games will likely not always be their idea of a good time. But this year, they have loved it, and they couldn’t wait to see what worlds awaited us next. I will always cherish that. I hope they will too.